On 30 April and 1 May 2015, University College London’s Institute of the Americas (UCL-IA) hosted its 1st International Postgraduate Conference, organised by the UCL Americas Research Network. Established in 2013, the Network exists to facilitate interaction between postgraduate students working on any aspect of the Americas, with the aim of creating a dynamic, interdisciplinary community that can enhance the level of scholarship on that region. After successfully running a monthly seminar series throughout 2013-14, the Network planned the 1st Americas Postgraduate Conference for 2015. In the second post of our two part conference review the organiser’s offer some useful conference organising tips for next year. Catch up on the attendee’s review of the event here. Together these two posts outline the research presented at the inaugural conference and what we can expect from the Network in the future.
by James Hillyer, Anthony Teitler, Thomas Maier and William Sawyers
Based on the objectives of the Network, the main purpose of the conference was to provide postgraduates and early career researchers with an opportunity to present their Americas-based research in a friendly and supportive environment, regardless of their disciplinary focus. This, in turn, meant it was imperative to develop a broad theme, so we settled on ‘Power and Change in the Americas in the Modern Era.’
Following our call for papers, which lasted from October to December 2014, we received over 70 abstracts from all over the world, ranging from proposals that explored the issue of public health in Latin America to others that dealt with the foreign policies of the United States and Central American countries.
Come April the conference was a huge success and we were delighted that people from numerous countries – including Spain, Germany, Hungary, Mexico, Australia, Chile and Columbia – attended and presented. For us, it was fantastic to see something that we had planned for so long finally come to fruition. What we found most rewarding was that all attendees interacted and engaged with each other throughout, one of the main purposes of the conference. In fact, this went so well that it has motivated us to continue to grow the Network into a dynamic, interdisciplinary community, so keep an eye out for details about future events! Here we have put together some tips for next year:
4 Tips for Organising a Postgraduate Conference
- Ensure that one, or perhaps two, people take overall charge of the organisational process. The whole process needs to be overseen and directed by a few individuals to ensure that committee meetings are arranged, abstracts are properly filed, keynote speakers are contacted, attendees are communicated with, and rooms and catering are all booked on time.
- Allow plenty of time to formulate panels and to find chairs. Although we had around five months between the deadline for the call for papers and the start of the conference to do this, time flew by and it was very difficult to meet the deadlines we set.
- Expect people to drop out or to not turn up. Unfortunately, people will drop out after you have arranged panels, whilst some won’t even turn up at all. So, always have in mind a few ideas that will enable you to deal with these eventualities if they arise – can you make a panel work with less people, or can you move people onto new panels at short-notice? One thing we did was we ensured that members of the organising committee would be prepared to present a paper or chair a panel if we were unable to fill all of our panels or appoint all of our chairs.
- Try and keep the location of panels, keynotes addresses and receptions as close to each other as possible. For us, this was a slight issue, but we were able to deal with it by providing guides to and from locations, and by giving each attendee a clearly labelled map.
The UCL Americas Research Network would like to express their gratitude to all the staff at the Institute of the Americas, who provided invaluable support leading up to the conference. In particular, the Network would like to thank Oscar Martinez, Abi Espie, and Jonathan Bell.
James Hillyer is a PhD candidate at the Institute of the Americas, University College London. He is researching the career of former Kennedy-Johnson CEA chairman Walter W. Heller, which he plans to use as a lens onto the rise, ascendancy and eclipse of Keynesian political economy in the United States. He holds a BA in Modern History from Queen Mary, University of London and an MA in United States Studies from UCL.
Anthony Teitler is a PhD candidate at the Institute of the Americas, University College London. His doctoral research examines from a constructivist angle US policy towards Afghanistan from the Soviet intervention to the end of 2014. Anthony has travelled widely in a professional capacity including the Middle East and Afghanistan, where he has worked on projects that involved extensive field research and analysis. He currently lectures at a university in Germany.
Thomas Maier is a PhD candidate at the Institute of the Americas, University College London. He previously studied Area Studies of Latin America and North American History at the University of Cologne, Germany, and the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. His PhD focuses on the history of labour and welfare in the Americas in a transnational perspective, but he is also interested in the history of social mobilization and cultural protest. Thomas is a co-founder of the Radical Americas Network.
William Sawyers is a PhD candidate in Film Studies at UCL. His thesis is titled “‘A place that has its own identity’: Boston and New England as filmic imagined community.” He has a BA in History from College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA) and an MA in Film Studies from UCL. His research interests include national imagining and historical memory, otherness and identity, and place.